The “customer is always right” mentality largely does not exist in England. Rules are strictly enforced. I remember being at “The Turf,” which is the historic pub where Bill Clinton allegedly “did not inhale” a certain substance while a Rhodes scholar, and being shocked that the bar was closed at 10:31 on Sunday night. After I tried to bargain that I just wanted bottled drinks for my group of friends, the bartender just blankly said “sorry, it’s tradition to close at 10:30 on Sunday.” A nearby customer walked over as if confronting a criminal barbarian and growled at me, “it helps to know the rules, Yankee.” In the United Kingdom, tradition matters more than consumerism. In America, consumerism is our tradition.
I came to Oxford with one goal in mind: get out of the United States for a few months. Having lived over two decades in only this country, I was ready for an adventure. From the onset on the trip, I realized that I was different, and that they knew I was different. It might have been the gym shoes, the shorts, or even the White Sox hat that I wore on my flight across the Atlantic Ocean, but somehow it seemed that everywhere I went people knew that I was an American. This happened before I even opened up my mouth and revealed my Mid-Western accent.
Still, the experience overall was very positive and I would have enjoyed another quarter there if my schedule had worked out. The combination of living in a beautiful, historic city, having tutorials on subjects I enjoyed studying, taking daytrips to London, and sharing a house with 45 other enthusiastic Stanford students was a constantly energizing experience that I will not soon forget. While I enjoyed my quarter, and would not have minded spending extra time in England, in the long run I need a type of environment where my Diet Coke is enthusiastically refilled for free. Thankfully, I get to live in America where such service is possible.